As if having God on its side all these years wasn’t helpful enough, the Basilica Block Party also now has the biggest concert promotions company in the world working on its behalf, a change that should be noticeable when 2019’s 25th anniversary lineup is announced earlier than usual Tuesday morning.
Long the domain of Minneapolis’ late, pioneering independent promoter Sue McLean and her team, the talent at the July church bash will be booked for the first time by Live Nation, the Los Angeles conglomerate that generates more than $10 billion in revenue per year.
Under the watch of Sue McLean & Assoc. (SMA), the Basilica party has raised more than $9 million for restoration and upkeep of the historic Basilica of Saint Mary in downtown Minneapolis, where McLean's funeral packed the pews after death from cancer in 2013. Her successor and niece, Patricia McLean, said she and the SMA team opted to step aside this year to focus their energy on other events. They also oversee talent booking for the Music at the Zoo series at the Minnesota Zoo.
"It is indeed the end of an era!" said McLean, whose continuation of her aunt's business was spotlighted in a Star Tribune story last year. "Our business has evolved, and we wish them continued success."
Representatives from Live Nation’s Minneapolis office declined to comment on the changeover and on what's to come at the party. The non-religious organization behind the event, Basilica Block Party LLC, issued this statement but also declined to answer further questions:
“We had a wonderful relationship with (SMA) for many years. We regularly explore options with vendor relationships, and this past year, we issued a RFP for talent booking services, and SMA chose not to participate. As a result of a competitive process, we contracted with Live Nation for the 2019 event.”
The change to Live Nation also made sense after a longtime SMA staffer involved with booking the party, Tamsen Preston, left the company to work for Live Nation before last year's installment, when the lineup included Cake, Jason Isbell, BØRNS, the Revolution and Fitz & the Tantrums.
This brings Live Nation back to the festival realm in the Twin Cities for the first time since 2013, when it pulled the plug on the River’s Edge Festival in St. Paul after only one year and a purported $5 million investment to launch it.
Live Nation certainly has the clout and deep pockets to pull in some bigger names. The early buzz on the lineup announcing Tuesday promises a few of those. However, some of the more independent artists who played the party could be a thing of the past, especially the ones that played it out of dedication to McLean.
But then again, some of those more indie-minded acts were the ones who also have seen less and less airplay in recent years on the ever-poppier, iHeart-Media-branded station Cities 97, which co-sponsors the Basilica bash. The station was founded under the same corporate structure as Live Nation, both originally part of the old Clear Channel brand.
This year’s Basilica Block Party is scheduled July 12-13. Acts will be announced on air from Cities 97 in the morning.
In recent years, the lineup announcement typically hasn’t come until early April, but Live Nation no doubt wants to get a jump on the many other competing events that have popped up. That won't include the Eaux Claires Festival like last year, but will include Trampled by Turtles’ annual mini-fest at Bayfront Festival Park in Duluth (TBA) and the 80/35 Festival in Des Moines (featuring Kesha and Phantogram in 2019; and sometimes featuring some of the same acts as the Basilica party).